55+ Labor Force Participation Rate Unchanged for Seventh Month

February 2020 Data Digest Blog
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Employment Overview

In February 2020, the economy added 273,000 jobs, the same number added in January (revised up from +225,000), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) monthly Employment Situation Summary. The overall unemployment rate edged down to 3.5 percent and held steady at 2.6 percent for those ages 55 and older. The number of people ages 55+ who were unemployed was unchanged at 1 million, while the number employed in this age group increased slightly to 37.8 million. The overall labor force participation rate was unchanged at 63.4 percent and, for the seventh consecutive month, remained at 40.3 percent for those ages 55+. Meanwhile, 19.7 percent of jobseekers ages 55+ were long-term unemployed (i.e., looking for work for 27 weeks or longer) compared with 18.9 percent of those ages 16 to 54.

Spotlight on the Costs of Age Discrimination as Longevity Rises

AARP’s Longevity Economy® series was updated in January 2020. The newest analysis examines how as people live longer and healthier lives, older adults “are contributing to communities and fueling economic growth well past the traditional retirement age.” A key conclusion of the report, written in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit: in the decades ahead, the 50+ demographic will drive job growth across industries and occupations. However, additional analysis outlined in a separate report shows that age discrimination against these older adults exacts a high cost – not only on individual workers but also on the U.S. economy. And if employers and policymakers do not effectively address that problem, the cost will only grow in the years ahead.

Age discrimination clearly stands to negatively impact some significant numbers, and does so already. The authors estimate that in 2018, people ages 50 and older directly or indirectly supported 88.6 million U.S. jobs and project that number to grow to 102.8 million jobs in 2050. They forecast that when the first millennials turn 50 in 2030, people age 50 and older will contribute $12.9 trillion to the U.S. economy. This contribution will grow to $28.2 trillion in 2050, when members of Generation Z first begin to turn 50.

When looking specifically at the economic cost of age discrimination, their analysis shows that the U.S. economy lost an estimated $850 billion through lost wages and consumer spending because of age discrimination in 2018. In an economy without age bias, however, the economic contribution of Americans ages 50 and older could increase by $3.9 trillion annually. By 2050, a no-bias economy could add up to $32.1 trillion to US gross domestic product (GDP).

The U.S. economy stands to benefit if employers and policymakers work to eliminate age discrimination in the workplace. According to Joo Yeoun Suh, AARP Director, Longevity Economy and one of the reports’ authors, “[T]he economic cost of failing to address age discrimination renders it an absolute necessity.”

Find more details on the latest employment data in the February Employment Data Digest, the AARP Public Policy Institute's (PPI) monthly review of job trends for those ages 55 and over. For more data to drive policy solutions, go to PPI's Data Explorer.

Jen Schramm is a senior strategic policy advisor at the AARP Public Policy Institute. Her areas of expertise include employment trends, policy challenges, and opportunities related to workers and jobseekers ages 50 and above, and skills and credentialing for mid- and late-career workers.

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